The Trial of Socrates
“I think…” she began, nervously, but her voice was loud and clear. “You’re the cleverest man in all of Athens.”
Socrates looked at her curiously.
“My girl, the only thing I know is that I don’t know anything at all.”
Delphi and Plato sneak into the trial of Plato's teacher, Socrates. They manage to sneak past the guards and catch a glimpse - but it doesn't look like it's going well. Maybe they can at least find out what he's supposed to have done wrong...
What's important about asking questions?
Why should Socrates be freed?
Can you know that you know nothing?
Asking questions to find out more
Using 'because' to justify your ideas
Recognising when you don't know yet
This lesson continues to develop the children’s basic skills for philosophy lessons. The main focus is on the need to use ‘because’ to justify our ideas. The first sentence stems are introduced and the importance of why we need to disagree with one another, and identify when we’re not sure, are looked at explicitly. The chapter also completes the overall introduction to the story of Delphi the Philosopher and gives some context to future lessons.
Lesson Blog: The Trial of Socrates
My Year 3 children were very excited for our next Delphi lesson! Now that we had introduced the characters and immersed ourselves in Delphi’s world, this week we would be getting into some essential philosophy skills – and setting up some big questions that will be at the heart of many of our enquiries. There was a considerable amount of anticipation in the room as we settled down to read, and more than a couple of children asking if they could start throwing post-its at me again.
This, of course, is the advantage of a longer story, rather than something completely different each time. It pulls us all along with it. The children are invested before you start.
I love this photo, which was taken during this lesson, because it says it all really.
I don’t share these photos and videos to show a perfectly taught lesson (it’s not), or even perfectly behaved children (though they mostly are). I want to show you them because I want you to see what I see during these lessons. I think philosophy and storytelling should be a bit jawdropping.
On with the story. Delphi and Plato try and sneak into the trial but soon find themselves trapped in a room, with someone coming! Perfect! A chance for a bit of creative thinking as a warm-up.
Suggestions ranged from hiding under the table to… well… watch the video and see.
Luckily, it turned out only to be Phaedo, a friend of Socrates (as the well-read amongst you will know), which gives Delphi the perfect opportunity to ask some questions to find out more about what’s going on. This is an important skill of course. I wanted to make sure we could ask questions that made sense, and that weren’t something we already knew about. Some of their questions showed how deeply in the story they felt! They wanted to know more about Socrates, what he had done and what his punishment might be.
We were building up to our main discussions now, and the first big discussion question was: “Is it OK to ask questions and disagree with people?” The children were confident in giving their opinions – but this is where Delphi philosophy really comes into it’s own. As a teacher, I want to know that we are making progress in these discussions – that the skills we are using are developing. To make sure this happens, we have a secret weapon: sentence stems!
Here you can see me introducing the first one during our discussion:
This then becomes an expectation for our responses from now on. I model it, and then we practise it. It doesn’t take long before the children use it without prompting, some at a basic level, some at a more advanced level. It’s such a simple tool, but when used right it can work wonders.
This next video shows another technique – revoicing. By clarifying what the child is saying, and asking her if that is what she meant, I can help her clarify her thoughts and explain what she means more succinctly.
There are many techniques to teaching philosophy. I’ll keep dropping them into this blog as we go along, but the full Delphi the Philosopher scheme includes a Teacher’s Guide which includes a full description of all the strategies you can use.
But anyway, back to the lesson. We’re making progress. Delphi and Plato manage to sneak into the trial and together we take a glimpse through the door…
We see Miletus accusing Socrates at the trial, so we re-enacted it, complete with a fluffy beard and very enthusiastic guards who kept telling him to “stop asking annoying questions!” The rest of the class became the Athenian jury and we discussed whether we thought Socrates deserved to be punished.
Along the way, we introduced another sentence stem – how to say 'I’m not sure yet because…' This is an essential step in developing children’s reasoning as it shows children how to express an idea that might involve agreeing a bit with both, or thinking something different. As soon as the children realised this was an option, it became a popular response. “I’m not sure yet because why would you keep asking questions if you already knew the answer?” said one child. We were exactly where I wanted them to be. So, we returned to the story.
From here, we see Socrates being found guilty. Delphi and Plato race round to try and see him before he is taken away. Then there comes a very significant moment in the story (and actually, the very first inspiration for inventing Delphi in the first place. If you know your history, you might notice what we’ve done here…)
Our final discussion, practising our ‘I'm not sure yet because’ responses, works very well. We don’t know what Socrates means yet, but that’s OK. We’ll figure it out.
That noise at the end of a Delphi lesson may become a common feature I think…
What was so pleasing about this lesson for me was that I could see progress in the children’s reasoning and explaining skills already – and each chapter will push it on a little bit further as we get further into the story. Philosophy through storytelling. That’s what we were aiming for with Delphi.
Let’s see how Rosie’s Year 5 class in another school got on this week…
There’s been an exciting anticipation amongst my class this week for our next philosophy instalment. We’ve had a week immersing ourselves in the world of mythical beasts in English and the chronology of the Greek period in our Topic lessons so the children are certainly now in the full Ancient Greek mode, which is fantastic! There’s been a handful of children, who literally have been asking me everyday ‘Is it Delphi day yet?’ I suppose for a child that Friday afternoon does still feel like it’s miles away when you’re waiting for something you really enjoy.
There was an exciting buzz in the room when we settled down to begin lesson number 2. The children could confidently recall all that happened in the story so far and were quite clearly desperate to get going to find out what happened next. Our story telling this week involved lots of laughs, gasps and a few suggestions like ‘You could stand on top of that barrel and jump on the head of the nasty man coming through the door.’ We also rearranged our seating in the classroom to reflect the layout of Socrates’ trial and the children were very excited to be given the opportunity to step into the role of some of our characters in the story. Interactive storytelling at its best.
This week’s lesson was aimed at developing our discussion skills by giving reasons in response to some big questions. The first two sentence stems were introduced and the children immediately leapt onto using them. It’s amazing what progress five little words on a coloured speech bubble can achieve in just a few minutes.
A stand out moment for me this week was when we were discussing whether it was fair that Socrates was in jail for just asking questions. Lots of children, amusingly, thought it was fair because he was, in their words, ‘quite annoying’. Some thought that it was a bit harsh but they seemed to be the minority. One boy though seemed to be sitting with a very confused expression on his face. He said: “I agree Socrates should be in jail because the questions were annoying.” I then asked him if he thought that asking too many questions was a crime. He replied, “Well, some questions are important so no but maybe Socrates was asking silly questions. If it was my sister then she wouldn’t go to jail as it’s ok for her to ask questions. Actually, maybe Socrates shouldn’t be in jail either…. but I don’t know…” I won’t lie, I felt a bit of triumph when I saw the muddle he was getting himself into, and I used this as a perfect time to introduce the ‘I’m not sure yet because…’ sentence stem. We then talked about what that sentence stem meant and why not being sure was valued just as much as knowing what you think. To have a chance like this handed to me on a plate this year was just amazing!
All in all, another very successful lesson with the help of Delphi! I already feel like my class have made progress in developing their thinking skills. The ‘I agree/disagree with that because…’ sentence stem has really helped their ability to listen and respond to one another, rather than our class dialogue being just between them and me.
Week 3 is on the horizon!
Don’t just let us have all the fun! You can download both the Prologue and this chapter in one set by clicking the link below, or the entire story and set of resources for Delphi the Philosopher here.
(Explicit consent has been obtained to publish the photos and videos on this website. Do not copy or replicate these in any way. Many thanks to parents/carers for their support and to Mrs Hegedus, TA superstar, for taking the photos. Special thanks to Santa for letting us borrow the beard!).